10 questions with... Michael Roth, chairman and chief executive of Interpublic Group

IPG chairman and chief executive, Michael Roth answers The Drum's 10 Questions

The Drum speaks to people across the global media and marketing sector who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what little insights they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are answered by Interpublic Group (IPG) chairman and chief executive, Michael Roth.

What was your first ever job?

A family friend of ours owned a hat company and they hired me to help sell their hats during the World’s Fair in New York.

I was 19 and had to get people’s attention on the fair grounds and convince them to buy hats. I came up with two catchphrases: “Lids for the Kids” and “Hats for the Brats.” They worked and I moved a lot of hats -- my first foray into the marketing world!

I also learned a lot from watching the professional barkers around me – how to work a crowd and how to deal with people from all over the world.

Why did you get into advertising?

I joined IPG’s board in 2002. I had been chairman and CEO of a financial services company. As part of that, I oversaw the advertising budget. I remember asking my agency back then how could I keep investing in their programs when they couldn’t prove the ROI to me.

So when I was named Chairman and CEO of IPG in 2005, I focused on the following immediate business goals: invest in tools to prove ROI, invest in talent and get more diversity in our leadership ranks. I’m happy that we’ve been able to make progress on all these fronts.

What would be the perfect day?

The perfect day would include being recognized as an organization where the best people want to come to work and to stay here, and to have clients tell us they want to work with us and are proud of the market-moving work we create together.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?

I hear @InterpublicIPG is doing interesting things on Instagram and Twitter.

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?

The Magnificent Seven – a movie with strong messaging on selflessness and the greater good coupled with great action.

If you could ban one buzzword or piece of jargon what would it be?

“You're the man!”

From a societal and business perspective, it is imperative that we become more inclusive, especially in the advertising industry where we need to communicate with a diverse audience.

Who is the person you most want to meet in the industry and why?

Marion Harper. He developed the concept of the modern advertising holding company at McCann – he had great vision and took opportunistic action. 

Highlight of your career (so far?) 

Joining IPG at a time when the company was challenged financially and competitively.

Together with a world-class team, we have transformed IPG into the leading holding company in our sector.

What is your all-time favourite piece of advertising?

That’s like asking me to pick my favorite grandchild!

I believe the "Priceless" campaign for MasterCard, L'Oréal's 'Because you're worth it' and the Geico work are all brilliant and show how what we do can help create iconic brands and move the needle for our clients’ businesses.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Hire smart people, even if they are smarter than you are, and maintain a collaborative and accountable environment. 

Check out other entries in The Drum's 10 Questions With... series available to view here.

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